Lawsuit: Visalia man dies waiting in Medi-Cal backlog

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A Visalia man who died while waiting for Medi-Cal benefits is now at the center of a lawsuit against the state of California. (KFSN)

A Visalia man who died while waiting for Medi-Cal benefits is now at the center of a lawsuit against the state of California.

The family says all they want is to make sure that no else experiences what they did. Attorneys say the system that was designed to help people just like them failed them in the worst way.

"No one should have to die still waiting many months after applying for their Medi-Cal to be granted," are just some of the harsh words in a 25-page petition.

They're talking about 48-year-old Robert Cribbs. His mother, Frances Rivera, called for help after getting a piece of mail that would have been lifesaving, had it come months earlier.

"Shortly after he passed away, I believe between four and six weeks after he passed away, she received notices in his name from Medi-Cal saying that he was eligible since January," said Supervising Attorney Gillian Sonnad with Central California Legal Services, Inc.

Rivera is upset that they couldn't access they very care they needed. Her son, Robert, applied for Covered California, was told he wasn't eligible and to apply for Medi-Cal. Robert had already died, when he finally got the approval. His family didn't even know the cause of death; they only knew that he was extremely sick.

"The coroner did an autopsy, and when she got the autopsy results he relayed to her that had they tested for this, this is a treatable condition," said Senior Attorney Jen Flory with the Western Center on Law and Poverty.

Attorneys from the Western Center on Law and Poverty and Central California Legal Services joined forces after discovering similar cases around the state. The backlog spans 350,000 people who are all waiting for insurance.

Flory is asking for the state to follow the law. "We want to make sure that our lawsuit has an affect going forward and the people who are currently on the backlog get off it as quickly as possible," she said.

The state says it can't comment on pending litigation, but did say they've reduced the backlog and that they're addressing the issues affecting the enrollment process. It's a statement that came far too late for Rivera, who is still grieving the loss of her son.

The state reminds people who are waiting in that backlog that they can visit the county human services office for in-person help, and that Medi-Cal will cover the costs of the care while waiting for the application to process. As for the lawsuit, a court date is pending.

Related Topics:
covered californiahealth caremedicallawsuittulare countyVisalia
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